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(Pocket-lint) - To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 20 May, Apple has announced several accessibility features for its users with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities.

What are Apple's new accessibility features?

Here's everything new and when you can expect to start using the features.

Background sounds

Apple's Background Sounds is meant to minimise distractions to help users stay focus, stay calm, or rest. It's a neurodiversity-focused feature for anyone who enjoys white noise. Balanced, bright, or dark noise sounds are available, as well as ocean, rain, or stream sounds. They can be set to play continuously and even be mixed into other audio and system sounds to mask overbearing noises.

AssistiveTouch

Those with limited mobility can leverage a new AssistiveTouch feature to control the Apple Watch without having to touch the display or the controls. Built-in motion sensors, the optical heart rate sensor, and on-device machine learning enables the Apple Watch to detect muscle movement and tendon activity to control a cursor on the screen. Apple said AssistiveTouch launches later this year.

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New Memoji

New Memojis with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet are coming.

iPad eye-tracking

Later this year, iPadOS will support third-party eye-tracking devices so that users can control the ‌iPad‌ with their eyes.

SignTime

With SignTime, users can communicate with AppleCare and retail customer care using American Sign Language in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France - all via a web browser. SignTime launches 20 May 2021.

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VoiceOver update

A VoiceOver update will provide users with more details about people, text, table data, and other objects in images. VoiceOver will also describe a person's position next to other objects in images, and then, with Markup, users can add image descriptions to their own photos.

Display and text size settings

Users will be able to customise their display and text size settings on a per app basis, making it easier for those who are visually impaired to see the screen.

MFi hearing aid update

Apple is rolling out support for bi-directional hearing aids to enable hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations. Next-generation models from MFi-certified partners are also due to arrive sometime later this year.

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Audiograms for headphone accommodations

Headphone accommodations will add support for audiograms, so users can personalise their audio by importing their hearing test results.

Sound actions for switch control

Sound actions replace physical buttons and switches with mouth sounds such as a click, pop, or "ee" sound. It's for users who are non-verbal.

When will these features be available?

Apple will release most of its new accessibility feature later in the year across its various products and services. tTey might even arrive with the iOS 15 update that Apple is expected to introduce at WWDC 2021 this summer.

What is Yubo and how can I join it?

Writing by Maggie Tillman.
  • Source: Apple previews powerful software updates designed for people with disabilities - apple.com
Sections Apple Phones Apps